By Ifeanyi Olannye
Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta has pledged his administration commitment to strengthening the processes and structures that will enhance standards in customary law processes in the state.
Okowa gave the assurance on Monday in Asaba while swearing in Justice Patience Elumeze as Acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal in the state.
The governor said that his administration would also continue to promote the growth and development of native laws and customs in the state.
He said that the government would leave no stone unturned to improve the welfare and working conditions of the bench and staff in the customary court system.
Okowa affirmed that by virtue of Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) from which the Nigerian judiciary derived its powers to administer justice, district and area customary courts were better suited to deliver justice at the grassroots without being bogged down by the technicalities of the common law.
He disclosed that district and area customary courts were well positioned to deal with matters involving land disputes, marriage, succession, inheritance, guardianship, and custody of children in rural communities.
He pointed out that their roles in the justice system were strategic.
According to him, it is imperative that those charged with the responsibility of running the customary court system are men and women of good character and standing in the society.
Okowa said that they would ensure that justice was not only served but also seen to be served.
“By so doing, the courts will retain the confidence and goodwill of the public from which it derives its ultimate authority,’’ he said.
He congratulated Justice Elumeze on her appointment, saying that her selection was well-deserved and was on merit.
He described her as “cerebral, disciplined, hardworking, dependable and properly placed’’ by her current position to function as Acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal in the state.
“I expect you to continue in the same trajectory of hard work, excellence and ethical conduct that earned you this promotion. This is not the time for you to rest on your oars but to double up your efforts.
“Let me reiterate the point that this office will further stretch your resourcefulness, challenge your intellect, task your patience, encroach on your time, and test your value system,” he said.
He urged the judge to maintain a high level of focus, diligence, and personal probity.
“As one who was part of the success story of the past 21 years, I am fully persuaded that Justice Elumeze is well primed to broaden and deepen the wonderful legacies of her predecessor.
“It is important that the new leadership continues to promote, preserve, and protect the principles of natural justice, fair hearing, equity, and good conscience, which are the foundations upon which the customary court system is founded,’’ he said.
The governor expressed his administration’s appreciation and people of the state to the immediate past President of the Customary Court of Appeal in the state, Justice Stella Ogene.
He said that Ogene was one of the best brains the state had produced in the legal profession.
“Strong, confident and assertive; she worked assiduously to restructure the judicial architecture of the customary court system.
“From 29 area customary courts and 35 district customary courts prior to her tenure, we now have 37 area customary courts and 60 district customary courts in the state,’’ he said.
In her speech, Elumeze said that she was tremendously humbled by her appointment, and thanked the governor for finding her worthy of the appointment.
She also thanked the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Marshall Umukoro, for the part he played in her appointment and for his continued support to judges in the progress of the judiciary.
She paid glowing tribute to her predecessor, Justice Ogene for her inspiring role in the dispensation of justice in the state.
While thanking her fellow judges for their faith in her, she promised to serve to the best of her ability by upholding the rule of law and justice and promotion of the customary law of the people which governs them from birth to death.